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Yellow Basket

The cheeseburger basket with fries: a traditional favorite and an enduring icon of American culture.

Please consider this oft-quoted ode by songwriter and restaurateur Jimmy Buffett.

"I like mine with lettuce and tomatoes, Heinz 57 and french-fried potatoes. Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer. Well, good God Almighty, which way do I steer."

Though none of Buffett's trademark restaurants operate in Oregon, there are many tasty versions of the cheeseburger available in the Rogue Valley. They range from the inexpensive at fast-food chains to the higher end at fine restaurants. But for consistent quality and a good value for your buck, Yellow Basket in Central Point serves up some of the best.

Rob, my spousal equivalent, gets glassy-eyed at the mere mention of one, and I've heard him utter the words "cheeseburger and fries" whether we are choosing a spot for a quick lunch, dinner with friends or family, romantic dinner for two ... whatever.

We stopped there early last Saturday to "beef up" (if you will) before tackling a long list of weekend chores. Our order of bacon cheeseburgers with fries, dipping sauce and one indulgent chocolate milkshake tallied up to $12.98.

Yellow Burger offers all of the classics: burgers, chili burgers, bacon cheeseburgers, BLTs, hot dogs and chicken, fish and steak sandwiches. Prices range from $2.25 for the Jr. Burger to $6.45 for the Super Cheeseburger, a sandwich with four beef patties. Take it home and feed the kids.

Along with the real ice cream shakes, there are floats, cones, sundaes — including my favorite, hot fudge sundaes — and soft drinks. Shakes start at $3.29 for a small one and can be malted for another 50 cents. According to one of my coworkers, the malted shakes are the real deal and the best in the valley.

Yellow Basket's breakfasts are good, too. Eggs, omelettes, meats, hashbrowns and hotcakes are served until 11 a.m.

Breakfast is priced from $5.75 for two eggs and hotcakes or hashbrowns and toast to $8.65 for steak and eggs.

There are also tacos, burritos and taquitos, along with soups and salads.

Steak, chicken, shrimp and fish dinners are served all day and include fries and salad. Prices range from $7.65 to $9.45.

The restaurant is a former drive-in that has been operating at its current location "forever," according to one of its employees.

Pam Sieg, the Mail Tribune's research librarian, and I followed a paper trail back to 1964 that listed the place as the Dogs 'n' Suds Restaurant.

It also has done business as Jim's Drive-Inn, the Arcadia Drive-Inn, Dell's Hamburgers and Piper Inn.

Rob was raised in the Rogue Valley and remembers when orders were delivered to customers' cars by waitresses on roller skates.

I looked out of the large windows in the dining area at the old parking bay and tried to imagine waitresses carrying trays laden with burgers, fries and those malted chocolate milkshakes topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries. It may have been easier to visualize if there were some neon lights, or if it hadn't been raining at the time.

But don't let Yellow Basket's somewhat tattered and worn appearance deter you from eating at the place. The restaurant received a perfect score of 100 last December from Jackson County's health inspectors.

Now Yellow Basket patrons order their fare from the reader board behind the front counter and sit at tables in dining rooms that have been added to the interior.

We sipped at the chocolate shake while we waited for our order. When it arrived at our table, the burgers were sizzling with melted cheese and bacon. They sat nestled on top of a pile of piping hot fries in paper-lined baskets. True classics.

Neither one of us spoke for a few minutes while we devoured our meaty junk-food delights, but I could tell by the look on Rob's face that his day had been made.

The two of us do try to eat healthy food regularly. But when the notion moves us, we know we'll find our "cheeseburgers in paradise" at Yellow Basket.

— Laurie Heuston